Population: 1,482,460 (40% Human, 35% Orc, 20% Half-Orc, 4%
Imports: Slaves, timber, fruit, grain, spells
Exports: Iron, Bronze, magic items, mercenaries
Largest and strongest of the northern successor states, the
Holy Empire of Daerond is a bastion of evil. From the iron citadel
of Acherai to the slave pits of the Ashen mountains, the orcs and
men of Daerond labor ceaselessly to bring the successor states
under their dominion.
Daerond is ruled by thirteen Black Dukes, the feared leaders of
the thirteen great houses of Daerond. Each great house has
different rules for the succession of Black Dukes, but each
represents in some way the most important traits of his or her
house. In addition to the thirteen great houses, there are many
dozens of smaller noble houses in Daerond, each of which is allied
for protection and support with one of the great houses.
Among the Black Dukes, the most powerful is Bishop Morbanes,
Black Duke of Acherai, and high priest of Malbor. His forces
seized the city during the long Daerond civil war, and he is the
most feared of all the Black Dukes. In addition, he has the
support not only of some of the great houses, but of the Church of
Malbor. Theoretically first among equals, Morbanes is in fact the
ruler of Daerond. Few dare to oppose him openly and all fear the
attention of his fanatically loyal assassins.
Once a fertile coastal plain, Daerond was shattered in the fall
of Numanthaur. The wrath of the gods fell especially hard here at
the end of that ancient age, for this was one of the greatest
centers of its wickedness. The land was riven with abysses and
mountains were reared up, tall and terrible. The fertile soil
dried up and the rivers choked with dust.
Over the age that followed, tribes of men and orcs waged war
for the scant resources of the parched land, particularly for
access to the few rivers that still flowed down to the sea. By the
time the Conorrians marched in, the inhabitants of Daerond had
become proficient at survival in the barren wilderness and had
become inured to the hardships of their world. They relied heavily
on slavery till the few barely arable upland fields and meadows.
Under the Conorrians, Daerond was transformed. The marvelous
Conorrian roads allowed quick transit of the most hostile
territory. Daerond became, in effect, two nations. Along the
lowland roads, a series of Conorrian trading towns sprang up,
while the deep wilderness and mountainous uplands were left to the
native tribes, who lived by meager trade and banditry. And many
turned to the worship of evil Malbor, the god that promised them
power, and a return to dominion over their own lands.
The cult of Malbor grew strong in the Conorrian years,
indulging in slavery, necromancy and banditry. It was during this
time that the great Malborite artifact known as the Nightmare
Gauntlet was forged. With it, the cult was able to recruit
allies of great power: dragons, beholders, and enitre tribes of
ogres and trolls. The Conorrians spent centuries attempting to
stomp out the cult, but never quite managed to destroy it. When
the Mage Wars erupted, the cult was quick to spur on the chaos,
sending its assassins to deal with peacemakers on all sides.
In many ways, this backfired. The resulting Miletian empire was
far more vigorous in persecuting the Malborites than ever the
Conorrians had been. Emperors from Markimillien onward placed a
special emphasis on hunting down and destroying every last member
of the cult. Under the emperor Llorcan the Golden, this policy
nearly succeeded. Skilled infiltrators betrayed the cultís
leadership and brave agents of the empire destroyed the Nightmare
Gauntlet and slew all of the cultís priests. All except one,
Kadrech the Lame, who wandered hidden in the Worldspine mountains,
waiting to bring back the cult of his god. In the meantime,
Daerond had become a peaceful, if poor, province of the Miletian
Empire, best known as a waystation on the route to the riches of
Tirgonia and the far north.
If the Mage Wars held a hidden curse for the cult of Malbor,
the invasion of the Darothic hordes in 2282 held a dark blessing.
The hated Miletian power was swept away nearly overnight, and the
parched plains of Daerond were given hardly a second thought as
the empire and barbarians entered into their mutual death
struggle. Into this sudden vacuum entered the disciples of Kadrech
the Lame, preaching the gospel of hatred and revenge. At first,
they spoke only in whispers, but soon they were proclaiming the
word of Malbor to great multitudes who heard only that a great god
would return their land to them. Soon, the followers of Kadrech
were masters of a hardened, bitter people who burned with a desire
to conquer the soft peoples around them and take their fertile
lands for themselves.
By the end of the twenty-fourth century, Daerond was firmly
under the sway of the lich Dyrethis, known as the Black King.
Dyrethis sought always to expand his evil dominion and to learn
the secrets of godhood, for he considered that he had become
greater than any mortal. The following centuries saw his empire
rise to encompass everything from the Dun Aerinn river in the
north to the Golden Sea in the south, and from the Great Ocean in
the west to the Hammersea in the east. Lesser liches were his
lieutenants, while mortal priests and even dragons ruled over his
provinces. Dyrethisí end came in 2641 at the battle of
Dwarfbridge in Tirgonia. There his orcish legions met the combined
armies of Rhanalor, Tirgonia and the Elven Isles while he himself
stood against the allied archmages in battle. He was trapped and
destroyed, his essence dispersed upon a strong wind, and his
armies streamed back to Daerond in defeat.
The powers of Daerond collapsed with the death of the Black
King. After the war, only the deserts were left to Dyrethisí
followers, the Black Dukes. These nursed their wounds and built
back their strength. Nearly a century later, the Black Dukes
invaded the Harkorian League, absorbing the Leagueís powerful
trading strength and adding it to their own already powerful navy.
In 2755, the Daerons again invaded Tirgonia, now much weaker as
a result of having sent so much strength to the Crusades. Daerond
armies conquered all of their old northern territories, forming a
frontier at the Dun Aerinn river. As of old, they never managed to
take the great city of Cruachan, though they subjected it to one
of the longest sieges in history. At the point where the via
brythnium, the great northern road, crosses the Dun Aerinn,
they erected a necromantic watchtower known as Hellsmouth Keep.
From here, the Black Dukesí dread legions marched forth on raids
to capture slaves and goods from the surrounding lands. This time,
the Tirgonians had no allies to help them, and were hard-pressed
to answer the constant pressure from the south. In fact, in 2756,
the royal family of Bekanor was assassinated and the Bekanai clans
invaded their former ally, forcing the Tirgonians to fight two
wars at once.
The Daerondese had problems of their own, however. In addition
to rising tensions among the Black Dukes, an increasing agitation
among the Harkorians, as well as orcish raids from the Worldspine
mountains meant an increasing instability for the evil Empire. In
2763, Tirgonia and their new Skane allies defeated the Bekanai
tribes and turned its full military force south to the Daeron
border. In 2770, an attempt on the life of Bishop Morbanes, high
priest of Malbor, signalled the start of the bloody Daeron civil
war. At the end of the war, Daerond had been driven back to its
historical borders, its foreign conquests completely destroyed.
But now Morbanes is in a more powerful position than any Daeron
leader since the death of Dyrethis, and he has plans for the
MAJOR POPULATION CENTERS
Acherai - (Large city; population 61,720) Daerondís
nightmare City of Skulls sits on the northern rim of the Great
Rift, where the river Glamhoth thunders over the edge and into the
abyss below. The dark heart of Daerond, most who see it never
leave to tell the tale. Monsters walk freely within its walls and
the eyes of the Inquisitors are everywhere. The two largest
buildings in Acherai are the black spire of the Temple of Malbor
and the great arena, where blood duels are fought to entertain the
masses of the city.
Mount Hoarwind - (Small city; population 34,380) Under
the high peaks in northeast Daerond there lies a city carved into
the rock. Here the orcs have carved out a great system of caverns
and redoubts, and thrown up the massive Tower of the Broken Moon.
In the pits below Mount Hoarwind, great stores of weapons and
armor are forged, supplying the armies of Daerond and her allies.
This city is ruled over by the mysterious, inhuman Black Duke
Aluirek - (Large city; population 78,810) Daerondís
largest port, Aluirek sits on the banks of the Glamhoth river,
twenty-two miles upstream from where the river meets the sea. From
here, the great Daeron galleys glide forth to war and piracy,
while the smaller cogs hug the shore, trading with Harkoria and
the Mahadran Isles. Foreigners are likely to encounter a slightly
less frigid welcome in Aluirek than elsewhere, but are warned to
be on their guard. Press gangs are common, and enforced service on
a Daeron ship is usually a death sentence.
IMPORTANT LOCAL SITES
The Great Rift - When the wrath of the gods fell on
Numanthaur, it fell hard here. Ancient legends say that a city of
the ancients was so wicked that the gods plunged it far below the
earth, and that their last desperate attempt to free themselves
resulted in a vast piece of the earth being lifted from below.
Whatever the truth of these myths, the result is the Great Rift, a
seventy-mile-long valley carved deep into the earth in the
northern Daerond. The Rift has always been known as a breeding
ground of fell beasts, and an entry onto the secret worlds below
Theeurth. A dense mist hangs over the floor of the Rift, and green
vegetation grows up its sides. Many Daerons live on the uppermost
cliffs of the Rift, but few dare venture into its depths.
The Grey Wastes - Since time immemorial, the center of
Daerond has been a waterless, hostile desert of dismal, blowing
dust and salt flats known as the Grey Wastes. What few miserable
creatures make this hellish wilderness their home are almost
unknown, even to the Daerons. During the day, the temperature can
soar to over 120į. During the night, it can plummet to below
freezing. Local legend says that the desert is inhabited by the
ghosts of the ancients.
The Hills of Terror - The name of these hills in
southeastern Daerond comes from the wild and dangerous beasts that
live there, particularly trolls and giant spiders who trap and
consume the unwary. The ancient via brythnia, or great
northern road, still winds among these hills, preserved by ancient
magics, but unused and home to dangerous creatures unwilling that
trade should go through their demesne.
The River Narglaurith - This wide and substantial river
marks the traditional border between Daerond and the Harkorian
League. Itís banks are among the only truly fertile land in
Daerond, and so are covered in vast slave farms who work to feed
the legions of the northern cities. The river supplies fish and
game, as well as defense. A single bridge spans the mighty course
at Erzarus, far upstream. The Narglaurith fens near the ocean are
home to a variety of unwholesome creatures, including a fiercely
independent clan of lizard-men.